Executors and their Responsibilities

“Personal Representative” is a general term for the person who takes control of and winds up a deceased persons affairs (“Estate”), after their death. The process is called the administration of the deceased’s Estate. Who are Executors and what are their responsibilities?

Personal Representatives are known by different names depending on whether the deceased left a will or not.

If a will was left the Personal Representative named in the will is known as the Executor of the deceased Estate.

If a person dies without leaving a will, the person appointed by the court to administer the deceased’s Estate is known as an Administrator.

Once a person dies, their Personal Representatives hold the deceased’s assets on trust until those assets are transferred to the beneficiaries entitled to them. Personal Representatives, therefore, are also trustees.

Personal Representatives must comply with the relevant laws and regulations that govern trusts and the administration of deceased Estates.

Duties of Personal Representatives

Executors have a legal responsibility to administer the estate in accordance with the terms of the deceased’s will. Administrators must administer the Estate in accordance of the rules of intestacy.

A Personal Representatives’ duties can be summarized as follows:

  • Locating the deceased’s will;
  • Making funeral arrangements for the deceased;
  • Notifying all relevant authorities of the death such as Centrelink, Medicare, Department of Veteran Affairs;
  • Compiling a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities;
  • Collecting and holding the deceased’s assets on trust, pending distribution;
  • Arranging for the payment of the deceased’s debts;
  • Depending on whether a will has been found, applying to the Supreme Court for probate of the will or letters of administration if there is no will;
  • Keeping the beneficiaries informed about the administration of the Estate;
  • Arranging the preparation of tax returns on behalf of the deceased and the deceased’s Estate;
  • Maintaining an accounting record of funds received, expenses paid and distributions;
  • Distribution of the Estate to the beneficiaries.

Personal Representatives have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of an Estate. Please refer to our publication Rights of Beneficiaries’ for more information about what information beneficiaries are entitled to receive during the course of the administration of an Estate.


The responsibility of administering a deceased’s Estate can be onerous, complex and very time consuming. An Executor who is unwilling or unable to undertake this responsibility can renounce their position.

Link to other will and estate planning articles.

If you are left with the daunting responsibility of administering a loved one’s Estate, we encourage you to contact us to assist you through this process. 

DBL Solicitors